Tuesday, November 6, 2012

More than the Sniffles

Yanmar, off for a brief visit to the doctor
I keep telling myself that the cruise is what actually happens rather than what I want to have happen. There I was, heading south and thinking of Jekyll Island. My main concern was whether I would get an interesting collection of day sails along the way. Instead I got to stay put in Oriental, NC, for the last month.

Ron and Jayne, who have a house in Oriental, have been incredible, stopping by to chat and commiserate, driving me here and there, sharing eat outs, inviting me over for bottles of wine and dinners, providing a personal laundromat. Cruising really is about the people. I met them in the Bahamas long ago when we first ventured across the Gulf Stream and have treasured thirty years of their kindness and friendship.

I never imagined that inquiring into my rebuilt Yanmar's oil leaks would tie me to Deaton's dock for this long. Black snot dripping from its nose turned out to be the least of its problems. This has become a bit like going to the doctor with the sniffles and ending up on the operating table, getting a heart transplant.

John Deaton said that they would make things right. They haven't flinched. Eric has relentlessly pursued various mysteries while the engine sheds more and more parts. They are determined to make sure that we leave here actually cured.

An early puzzle had to do with incorrect settings for the governor and timing of the diesel injection pump. Eric adjusted those to factory spec, replaced several parts, fixed the the oil sniffles and fired her up. It ran perfectly.

Well, almost perfectly. At idle it would eventually lug and die. How disappointing. Eric had seen this once before in a six-month chase to nail down a problem with a different Yanmar. He knew where to look. Off came pumps, flywheels and housings to reveal gears and shafts that are normally quite private.

And there, hidden away, was the smoking gun. Sometime in the past the bearing that supports the front of the crankshaft was pressed into its housing with a bit less than the required vigor. It stands about a millimeter proud of where it should be and doesn't quite align with the surface that holds the governor assembly. The governor arm has been doing a mad dance as its forked fingers followed that misaligned bearing's sleeve.

Ah, those incorrect settings for the governor and timing of the diesel injection pump? I now believe that they were a maladjustment to compensate for symptoms caused by the underlying mistake of that proud bearing. This could account for all sorts of problems in governance, or whatever one might call the nuances of feeding exactly the right amount of fuel into the beast’s maw at precisely the moment to make things happen.

The tolerances are tight. Uneven wear on the tips of the governor fork's fingers meant being intolerably out of specification. Even more serious problems would eventually occur. Sort of like acid reflux I suppose, painful and ominous.

Having found this, we're now on hold for parts. The replacement comes from New Jersey. In the end, hurricane Sandy is affecting me, too, though I understand that this delay is absolutely nothing compared to Sandy's real effects.

Although the schedule is uncertain, I have hope. Perhaps the clouds of black smoke that have followed me around will finally be behind me. The Yanmar will purr with pleasure. The engine sump will stay pristine. Sweet Pea will once again leave a wake as the scenery slides past.

Fiddler's Elbow
Meanwhile, when I'm not hanging out with Ron and Jayne, my cruise consists of chasing Jay Ungar. Jay is a prolific composer, well known for writing Ashokan Farewell, a lament that Ken Burns used as the theme tune in his 1990 documentary The Civil War.

On Jay and Molly's album Waltzing with You, they play Fiddler's Elbow at a brisk 150 bpm. Alas, on this tune my melodeon's governor is still topping out at a sluggish 130.

Perhaps I should ask Eric to look at my fingers for signs of wear after a thousand or so practice runs. Nah, I don't want to be the one that's on hold for parts.

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